The story of Wabash is populated with the stories of students, professors and alumni who have done interesting things in their life. This is, after all, a school for men. And for most of our history, the faculty was composed primarily of men. It wasn’t until personnel shortages caused by WWI that the first female taught classes here. However, there was one point in time where there were a LOT of women on campus. The end of WWII and the advent of the GI Bill led many veterans to attend college. These weren’t your average students, they were battle hardened veterans and many had young families. The government, in support of these men sent GI huts to campuses across America. These huts were small two-unit buildings, tiny, but with everything the young couples needed. A kitchen area, a very small living room and a bedroom and bath. Not luxurious accommodations, but for a generation trained in sacrifice and a make do attitude, they were sufficient. Here at Wabash, the GI housing area was known as “Mud Hollow” and, as we’ll see, it was a name well earned.
As listed in their constitution, “The purpose of the Club was to provide a meeting time and place for the members to meet for social purpose; and to foster affiliated interest groups.” Membership was, “…open to all wives of Wabash College and graduates.” The group as a whole met once a month. They formed various interest groups, some of these were: beginner’s bridge, contract bridge, mother’s group, study group, and the events planning group. Interesting to me is their meeting time – 8pm. A little late for a meeting to start, but late enough that the dinner dishes were done and the children put to bed.
The Dames Club lived on as long as the veteran’s village did. Eventually it morphed into Wabash Women, a group still going strong today. There are still various interest groups, although I don’t believe anyone is learning beginner’s bridge. We inhabit a very different world; most women today work outside the home.
While day to day life was hard with no luxuries, few amenities and a constant struggle to make ends meet, the occupants all struggled together. In speaking with some who lived in these places, they seem to recall their time there with a fondness. Perhaps it was that there they all were, in the same boat. There is something about a shared struggle that brings us closer.
In the file for the Club, I found a delightful poem penned by one of the dames. I like it because it tells us a good bit about life in Mud Hollow more than half a century ago. I hope you enjoy it!
In eighteen hundred and thirty-two
Nine Godly men had a plan in view
To form a college for men alone
And through these portals no women to roam
Their plans went through and Wabash was founded
And on Sugar Creek’s banks the college bell sounded
The first interruption the college had
Was the Civil War and the cadets they clad
Wabash went social at the turn of the century
Contests, Athletics, and frat’s made entry
In nineteen-four the Little Giants made fame
Thro’ the East and the West they were known by name
With scarlet their color – and football their game
They played such schools as old Notre Dame
In 1917 – the Spring vacation
Was marred by news of the war declaration
Student activities gave way to drill
To win the war became their will
The war was won and back they came
To take up their books and study again
An interesting change in the college feature
Was Mrs. Leavenworth, the first woman teacher
The enrollment increased with a leap and a bound
And for the college – a dean was found.
And now let’s skip to ‘41
To see what President Sparks has done.
He made his money early and later his degree
Life begins at forty, I’m sure you will agree.
He proved that business and college can mix
Scholarships for students is just one of his tricks.
The Navy program came with World War Two
Which gave the professors much more to do
School continued right on to the fall
To win the War there was no rest at all
Last year as we know, there returned to this college
Some men home from wat who were seeking more knowledge
They joined the armed forces, these bachelors wild,
And many returned with a wife and a child.
The problem indeed was to get them all here
For the students all wanted their families near
The solution appeared with the Government aid
And these G.I. huts into apartments were made.
Into these huts thirty families came
And our village is known as Mud Hollow by name.
To some its well known as Diaper Row
For the three-legged pants on our clothes line must go
To converse with our neighbors no trouble at all
Since all that we do is just knock on the wall
On sunny days learning to ride on their trike
Is MiMi, Buzz, David and Bobby and Mike.
But when the rain comes and the Hollow’s a flood
They wander, they sit, and sit in the mud
We wash hard on wash day and hang out our clothes
With mud from our ankles on up to our nose.
And if you should need a nice iron for y our blouse
Just run over and borrow from Davisson’s house
Or is it a sweeper you need for your rug
Just borrow from Bakers and use your own plug
We work hard all day then we dress up so neat
For tonight is the night that the Dames Club must meet
The fate of old Wabash forever will pend
But as for our story, friends, this is THE END